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President Harry S. Truman's March 17, 1948, Address to a Joint Session

March 17, 1948
President Harry S. Truman's March 17, 1948, Address to a Joint Session Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Before serving as Vice President and later President, Harry S. Truman of Missouri served for a decade in the U.S. Senate.
On this date, President Harry S. Truman addressed European security and condemned the Soviet Union before a hastily convened Joint Session of Congress. Attempting to contain spreading Soviet influence in Eastern Europe, Truman asked Congress to restore a peacetime military draft and to swiftly pass the Economic Cooperation Act (also known as the Marshall Plan), to provide billions in economic assistance to Western European countries. Truman’s speech also offered strong criticism of the Soviet Union. “The situation in the world today is not primarily the result of the natural difficulties which follow a great war,” Truman declared. “It is chiefly due to the fact that one nation has not only refused to cooperate in the establishment of a just and honorable peace but—even worse—has actively sought to prevent it.” Members of the Republican-dominated 80th Congress (1947–1949) were skeptical. “In effect, he told the Nation that we have lost the peace, that our whole war effort was in vain,” noted Representative Frederick Smith of Ohio. Others thought he had not been forceful enough to contain the USSR. “What [Truman] said fell far short of being tough,” noted Representative Eugene Cox, a Democrat from Georgia. “There is no prospect of ever winning Russian cooperation.” Despite its reservations, the 80th Congress implemented Truman’s requests, further escalating the Cold War with the USSR.

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